Here are my ten most important moves for a successful marriage. I have had some fun collecting thoughts and confessions from friends throughout the years and surprisingly, some of the false you will find down here once used to be my biggest truths…
Number one: you can’t change your partner, so stop trying. TRUE
It is probably thanks to your differences that you ended up together, only with time (and kids maybe?) you will naturally develop a very dark desire to change who your partner truly is. It usually starts with a series of blaming exercises like “why can’t you be more like me?”. This thing here is called Utopia and in order not to fall in the trap, you need to stay away from the temptation to focus on the differences.
Try to keep your eyes on the positives: if you keep reminding yourself the things that made you fall in love with your partner, you will be fine, even at challenging times.
Number two: just be yourself. FALSE
Hey hubbies and wifies out there! It is absolutely NOT because you can’t change who you are that you should just chill and not make any effort whatsoever to make your other half happy. Being yourself is not enough. Everyone knows that concessions and compromise are the keys to a long, healthy and successful marriage. Therefore, you can continue to be yourself, yes, as long as you also start making efforts to become an even better version of yourself.
Number three: love is all you need. FALSE
Unfortunately, love is not enough, no. We’d be taking another wild journey into the magic world of Utopia if we’d tell ourselves otherwise. Sometimes you need compassion, understanding, a good chat, a break, a funny night out. And sometimes, your friends (who have a life too in case you hadn’t noticed) cannot give you that. I think we can all agree that it’s fair to expect all of the above from your partner too.
Number four: happy self, happy couple. TRUE
For years, I have been lying to myself thinking I could only be happy in my relationship. Worse, I was so deeply convinced about my interpretation of happiness that I used to blame my husband who’s always been very real about putting his self happiness first.
It’s okay if your husband has a hobby (as long as that hobby is not a 20-year-old SHE), and you should have one too! If you want a successful marriage you should focus on nurturing your inner self and maintain a certain individual space, hobbies and friends, without necessarily sharing everything. As long as both of you are aligned on this one, you are safe and you will see that you can be even happier when you are together.
Number five: don’t say it, just prove it. FALSE
Honestly you guys! You think that just because you stick around that’s going to be enough? OK, that’s kind of THE thing to do, I give you that. But what about saying it out loud too?
For some people here, the spoken part is as important as the lived one. Do not underestimate the importance of the words you say (or do not say), and this applies to both the good things as well as the bad. Try for instance not to go to bed angry with your other half (which – I agree – can be a hell of a challenge when your hubby is already asleep ten straight seconds after he has touched the pillow). But you’ve got to try! And if there is anything you really wish to discuss, note it down and bring it up the next morning. Do not keep things in for too long, or they will start to beat you up from the in inside.
Number six: never forget you are a team. TRUE
In the good and the bad times, know what team you are on and play for that team, and that team only. Strategy can be discussed, argued and changed, but when you play out of home you can’t play solo! This is even more powerful when you have kids. Those little humans can smell fear from kilometers, so stay united team parents!
And you, husbands out there: when you get home after we’ve been having the kids all afternoon (and by all afternoon I mean two very long hours between after-school and dinner time, which feel way longer than the whole Star Wars saga), do not criticize our educational choices the moment you get back home, cause you were not there!
Number seven: share the pain, share the gain. TRUE
Apparently, the ideal job is made by 70% of tasks representing your talents. Therefore, at home, if you are more talented for taking care of the kids cause you have patience – and your other half can barely handle two series of “and why is that mommy? why??” before feeling like burning the whole place down -, then you handle the kids. But each has to find a talent and lead with it (everyone has a talent, do not dare to say you don’t!).
Number eight: no secret garden. FALSE
I cannot believe there are still couples out there that think it’s good not to have any secrets. Come on, let’s be serious for a second here. Do you truly believe your loved one tells you EVERYTHING? I think that keeping small secrets from each other (and I cannot stress enough on the “small” here) is totally fine and helps keeping that little bit of mystery spark alive. It is fine not to share everything, with the exception of the important things of course.
Let’s say you should behave as you do in the workplace: take your liberties, pretend like you were in a very important meeting while you were actually on social all afternoon, but never sell your employer’s secrets to the competition.
Number nine: don’t judge, be judged. TRUE
If you want a solid, successful marriage, you must have a sounding board throughout the journey. A fine selection of bad ass judges, who can review and criticize your couple inside out and without any filter, decency nor restraint whatsoever. Just like you were on The Voice. The secret here is to choose them right (so ensure you pick a devil’s advocate too, those can be of help every now and then).
Number ten: know your list and not his/hers. TRUE
Everyone has a list, even those who say they don’t. I’d say that up to five years into marriage, your partner will probably tell you there is only you on his/her list. However, with time you will get used to the fact that his list will be more and more crowded. And I think that’s fine, cause you have your list too, right? The golden rule for a long-lasting, successful marriage here is to only allow people like Jessica Alba and Leonardo DiCaprio. It is forbidden to fantasize on your partner’s best friends. And now, if you do not have a list (liar!), please go start one up.